At first, “Suspicion” comes on like a carefully written mystery miniseries, one whose every move now will somehow matter later. Uma Thurman plays an American media mogul whose son has been kidnapped at a hotel in New York. There’s closed-circuit footage of him blithely wandering down the hallway when the kidnappers, all wearing comically exaggerated rubber masks of the British royal family, grab him — footage that goes viral. Meanwhile, a handful of seemingly random British strangers who happened to be in New York at the time of the crime become suspects back in London. Presiding over the case are a pair of mismatched law enforcement agents, Noah Emmerich’s American and Angel Coulby’s Brit, who have an unhappy rapport.
And then everything turns sloppy and weird in this eight-parter, which premieres Friday on Apple TV+. Based on the Israeli series “False Flag,” the show devolves into a strange hybrid that’s neither tense nor particularly logical. The suspects, all seemingly innocent, ordinary folks, one of whom is grabbed by the cops in her gown on her wedding day, go on the run together in what winds up feeling oddly like a hangout comedy and not like a thrill-a-moment escape series — “How I Met Folks on the Road to Nowhere,” or “Friends in Dark, Scary Places.” The “leader” of the group, by the way, is a murdering psychopath who has his own mysterious agenda.
Adding to the strangeness is the minimal presence of the big-name actress who’s supposedly the star of the show, Thurman. The focus is consistently on the suspects, as they are interrogated and then as they hit the road. Thurman is barely in the first few hours, and while she registers a bit more in the later episodes, she is nonetheless a relatively small character overall. Her Katherine Newman is a controversial nominee for the UK ambassadorship, which may be what’s behind the kidnapping. After all, the ransom isn’t money; it is that Newman “tell the truth,” whatever that may refer to.
Newman doesn’t seem particularly worried — nor does she pretend to be worried — about her son, so much as she is concerned about her position. Usually a kidnapping case is driven forward by a ticking clock, and the understanding that the longer it takes for a rescue, the worse the odds are that the victim will survive. “Suspicion” doesn’t take that approach, even in terms of the public at large. After the clip of the kidnapping goes viral, it becomes a comic meme, thanks to the royal masks, and people remain unconcerned about the young man’s return as well. They, too, want Newman to #Tellthetruth.
Emmerich and Coulby, meanwhile, compete with each other like children to solve the case. Like everyone else on board “Suspicion,” the two actors are left adrift by the material.
Starring: Noah Emmerich, Uma Thurman, Kunal Nayyar, Elizabeth Henstridge, Georgina Campbell, Elyes Gabel, Angel Coulby
On: Apple TV+. Premieres Friday